Sepang circuit leaves McLaren with nowhere to hide as Hamilton struggles with new car.
Lewis Hamilton’s nightmare weekend translated onto the track in qualifying today as the Sepang International Circuit unearthed the full extent of McLaren’s problems with their new car.
With the team in turmoil over their disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix for misleading stewards, it was left to Lewis Hamilton to save face and salvage a respectable result in qualifying for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
But the undulating Sepang circuit with its demanding high-speed direction changes proved too big a feat for the aerodynamic deficiencies ingrained in the MP4-24, and the best Hamilton could muster was thirteenth place, with teammate Heikki Kovalainen not fairing much better in fourteenth.
“We’re just unable to carry enough speed through the corners,” vanquished Hamilton afterwards pointing to the severity of the aerodynamic problems plaguing McLaren’s MP4-24 at the moment.
Although he gains a position on the grid tomorrow as a result of Sebastian Vettel’s ten place grid penalty, Hamilton knows he has a fight on his hands in the mid-field.
“We qualified about where we expected to,â€ conceded the defending world champion. “We don t yet have the pace to get into Q3 but the balance doesn t feel too bad we re just unable to carry enough speed through the corners.
“We expect to see some improvements over the next two or three races. For tomorrow, I m just going to race my heart out, do the best I can and try and score some points.â€
McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh, who, alongside attempting to diffuse the “lie-gate” row, is spearheading an extensive development programme back at McLaren’s Woking headquarters to bring the team back into contention, knows the team have a tough race on their hands tomorrow.
“We always knew that qualifying would be difficult around Sepang because MP4-24 lacks the aerodynamic downforce needed to match the top teams,” he said.
” That s no fault of either Lewis or Heikki, who have driven faultlessly all weekend: they just lack the grip needed to get the most from the car through the high-speed corners.”
“Of course, starting 12th and 14th is not where we are accustomed to starting grands prix, but we are confident that the improvements we are preparing for the forthcoming races will allow us to quickly move into the midst of the tight pocket of cars competing for times in Q3.â€
Mercedes-Benz boss Norbert Haug added: “We will start tomorrow’s race from about where we thought we would. We have made some small additional improvements to MP4-24 since last weekend s season opener in Australia but we still missed out on getting into the top 10 by two tenths of a second.”
“Our KERS certainly helped laptimes in sectors one and three and we hope it will also prove beneficial tomorrow and hopefully help us overtake some of the cars that start ahead of us.â€